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Rhythmically, the title track of the forthcoming album Balls tipped the hat to The Prodigy's "Firestarter", and found Russell exhorting us to be courageous; to show some... Elsewhere, "More Than A Sex Machine" tagged an anthemic, electronica chorus to a quietly contemplative lyric, the singer now grappling with the downside of being perceived as a shag and nothing more.

(A tad presumptuous for a pop star who's now approaching 50, you might argue, but I think the gay contingent of last night's crowd would have disagreed.) A triumphant return, then, and one which saw Ron Mael re-instated as one of pop-culture's cult icons.

LAST NIGHT'S crowd was an intriguing mix of sexualities, nationalities and ages.

For the occasion, Ron sported his old toothbrush moustache, and fixed random members of the audience with icy stares.

Though now 60, he succeeded in looking exactly like he used to on Top of the Pops.

His Waiting For Godot - replete with toy-dog - was good, but the bit where he levitated his "illegitimate baby son, Lenny", was more spectacular.

What really cemented this performance, though, was the obvious strength of the new material.

Last Friday, they began a 21-night residency in our capital, that night playing only songs from their debut album, Halfnelson.

They now go on to air their complete oeuvre - all 21 albums, one album per concert, in chronological order. In interviews, however, the Maels have conceded that they've had to re-learn much of their own rep, in order to perform it just once for this project - a hare-brained scheme when you think about it.As befits a pop mob with a keen eye for the spectacle, FFS's first-ever live performance was on national television, thanks to Later... "Yeah, that was quite a baptism of fire," says Franz Ferdinand frontman Alex Kapranos."It was crazy - they do the show live, and I was the first person to start singing, so the nerves kicked in.The songs he wrote 35-odd years ago felt spookily prescient of so much subsequent "outsider rock", and Here in Heaven - about a guy whose gal reneges on their suicide pact - had all the bouncy energy of Pulp or the Kaiser Chiefs.The Maels stuck to their concept to their letter, playing only the 10 songs from Kimono, and encoring with Barbecutie, a single B-side from the same era.It celebrated four colourful decades of lyrical guile from LA's Ron and Russell Mael.

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